various thoughts on submitting a novel

I’ve begun submitting queries to potential agents for One-Match Fire. I dithered and hesitated for a long time, thinking the wording of the cover letter had to be perfect. But I knew I would never recognize when perfection was achieved, and I also knew I was mostly just stalling.

I’ve put my basic query together, and I refer to OMF as a novel-in-stories, and I continue to tinker with it, but it’s now a working document that I customize for each submission.

I’m using the new-ish agent function at Duotrope’s Digest. It’s still considered beta, but I’ve found that it seems to be more current than what’s at AgentQuery. I don’t know if the former “polices” its entries better, but I have seen some outdated information about agents at the latter. Duotrope also keeps a log of my queries so I don’t have to.

What’s common I’ve found at most of the agents I’ve submitted to is a statement something like “we will only respond if we are interested.” I guess that’s easier for them. And maybe it’s easier on the hapless submitter not getting dozens of soul-killing rejections. But like the promised letter or postcard that never comes, you wonder.

Some agent webpages have detailed guidelines while others are sparse. Some want an attachment to the submission email, some will delete any emails with attachments. Some ask for the first three chapters while others want only ten pages.

I dipped into the OMF manuscript and removed all unnecessary line breaks so that the text I can fit into a page-limit submission will be a little greater. You never know if the added sentence or two might be the persuasive eloquence that will win the day.

I’m trying to target my submissions now. So far I’ve only submitted to agents that are interested in story collections. (I’m still not certain how lethal or benign having some of the chapter already published is. I’ve been told that a story collection often needs to have 40 percent of its stories previously published to be considered marketable. This is also why I’m calling it a novel-in-stories, which I guess is more palatable than a story cycle, which is what I had originally conceived it to be. Still, if an agent doesn’t respond because the published chapters were the deal breaker, I’ll never know that.)

But I expect that I’ll soon move into a mere numbers game once I exhaust the list of story-collection agents I can find. And maybe after that I’ll begin submitting directly to publishers who are open to queries.

And I hope that taking this action, which “means” OMF is finished, will free my mind to working more earnestly on other work.

Explore posts in the same categories: Fathers and Sons

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